Ecclestone: Government should support British GP

04/10/2015
NEWS STORY

As Silverstone reports a profit, F1 supremo claims the government should help finance British Grand Prix.

Normally, it is his daughters who grace the pages of the Daily Mail, the British tabloid tirelessly keeping its readers fully up to speed with almost every move the super-wealthy pair and their husbands make.

Consequently, when Bernie Ecclestone told the tabloid that the British Grand Prix, currently under threwat (again) should be subsidised by taxpayers, the reaction was not favourable.

"Our Government should support the British Grand Prix," said Ecclestone, amidst claims the event could be dropped as early as next year as the Northamptonshire track struggles to meet his demands.

"They supported the Olympics and that cost a fortune, plus other events," he added.

"How about instead of the taxpayer lining Ecclestone's pockets, he resigns then someone else takes charge of Formula 1 and cuts charges for hosting the grand prix," responds one reader. "Across the sport teams, fans and circuits are suffering purely for old Bernie's greed!"

"You are a billionaire due to the sport why not open your wallet... why should we line your pocket Ecclestone," writes another.

"Why should the general public, i.e. the taxpayer, subsidise a sport that is the definition of nepotism?" demands a third. "I can't think of a sport less deserving of taxpayer's money."

"Two words..." adds another.

To make matters worse, whilst Silverstone claims that its financial position is such that its bankers are not prepared to issue a letter of credit as they do not believe there will be enough money in Silverstone's account to cover the hosting fee for 2016, its owners accounts show a record 3m profit for last year.

Ahead of this week's AGM of the British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC) which owns Silverstone, all 850 members, who include Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Frank Williams and Ron Dennis, were sent copies of the accounts for the year ending 31 December 2014

These showed, according to the Independent, that revenue rose to 54.7m, up 2.8m on the previous year, around half of this coming from the Grand Prix.

Pre-tax profits were 3m – the highest in ten years - whilst a revaluation of the track, plant and machinery saw an increase in value by 7.4m to 22.9m.

Under new MD Patrick Allen, who joined in January, staff costs have been reduced by 1.2m whilst a "low-cost airline" ticket pricing model led to 20,000 more spectators at this year's Grand Prix.

However, Allen, wary that the hosting fee increases by around 5% each year, that these are pair a year in arrears, and that fans will not accept a significant price hike, insists investment is needed.

"Our assets are static," says Allen. "We can revalue them and that fixes a hole in our balance sheet which, when I was brought in, was pretty weak and, to be honest, remains so. What it needs is a capital injection."

That injection is not going to come from taxpayers already struggling to meet the financial demands of essential services, which brings to mind Allen's comments from earlier in the week when he first revealed the problems facing the Grand Prix.

"What you really need for all parties is somebody who wants to buy a trophy asset and is willing to put a large amount of equity in," he told the Telegraph. "You want somebody that has got lots of money, who loves motor racing, who really wants to run Silverstone profitably but has the capital to inject into the business so it fixes the balance sheet and takes the risk profile away.

Whilst most will immediately think he is referring to Ecclestone himself, what of his girls? Petra has used trackside signage to advertise her (now failed) menswear label FORM, clearly realising the promotional side of the sport. Indeed, both are married to ambitious businessmen who must surely be aware of the vast rewards F1 can offer.

Surely, having reaped such fabulous rewards from the sport, the Ecclestones could put a little back in, rather than suggesting even further pressure is placed on the already hard-pressed British tax-payer.

Just a thought.

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Published: 04/10/2015
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